Sometimes airport lounges are an especially nice surprise. And sometimes they even exceed your expectations. I know that doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does, it makes for a story worth sharing! And how I even got to the lounge I’m writing about – well, that’s a good story as well.
Since it had been a while since I’d transited in Rome at Fiumicino airport (FCO), I did a bit of research on my lounge options. Seemed there were two to consider and both got awful reviews. My expectations were low, so I figured at the very least, I’d take a look at the better of the two, have a cappuccino, and then shake my head in disappointment and head out of the lounge.
When I checked in at FCO for my long haul segment in First Class, the Lufthansa agent told me to head upstairs to the lounge. My short segment from Rome to Frankfurt had some issues and was only in economy. I didn’t fuss about this because it was only a short flight. She explained it was an Alitalia lounge, and the one Lufthansa used as well. Lounge was easy enough to find, but when I gave the woman at the front desk, who was actually an Etihad employee, my boarding pass, she said I couldn’t use the lounge. I was flying a short segment in economy from Rome to Frankfurt. She was polite about it and so was I. I told her the Lufthansa agent had said I’d have access, so could she please call the Lufthansa desk and see what was going on.
In the meantime, a man and his two grown daughters came into the lounge thinking they had access from an American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, and they were also turned away. After arguing for a few minutes, he was pretty upset and left. I’m telling you this because it comes back into play in a little while.
The Alitalia lounge attendant calls and speaks with my Lufthansa woman, and though I’m not fluent in Italian, I can pretty much tell what’s going on. She puts me on the phone and my Lufthansa agent apologizes and tells me that the policies between the two airlines do not agree and it’s an Alitalia lounge so if they don’t want to grant me access, there’s not much she can do. She tells me to wait by the desk while she makes some calls and she’ll call me back. I thank her and say I’ll wait. I had more than a two hour layover, so I really did want lounge access to get work done and have a bite to eat.
Then it dawns on me. I recalled that the other lounge that was reviewed, and even came out worse than the Alitalia lounge, was a Priority Pass Lounge. I asked the Etihad woman if there was a Priority Pass Lounge nearby. She said, “Yes, down the hall and on the left.” I thanked her and told her I was going there and if the Lufthansa woman called back, to please tell her that news.
After I exited the lounge, lo and behold the man and his two daughters were there, still figuring out what they were going to do. Turns out they had a four-hour layover. I didn’t introduce myself. All I said to them was, “Follow me, I have another lounge plan in mind.” So with my cousin, and these three in tow, I walked to the Priority Pass lounge.
The lounge was empty, and as I walked up to the desk a really sweet, nice young woman came up to help me. I verified that this was the Priority Pass lounge, gave her my card, and very quietly asked her how many guests I could bring in with me. I always check because all the Priority Pass lounge cards come with different benefits. She said, “We don’t worry about guests here! How many do you have?” I pointed to my 4 guests. She smiled and welcomed us all in. Let’s just say the family of three was delighted and grateful and it was great to be able to help them out and watch them enjoy the lounge.
As I looked around, and even before I really looked closely at what the lounge had to offer, I had a good feeling about this place. For your reference, it’s in Terminal 3 near the D gates. I think we all have our own list of what makes a lounge either a winner or loser in our minds. Turns out this one is a big time winner. Even more so, given the very limited choices at FCO and particularly in this terminal. By this time, it was about 11:30 AM. I noticed that the lounge has plenty of natural light. It has big windows and even with the cloth shades pulled closed, the lighting was great. Next, I look for seating and seating arrangements. There were plenty of couches, tables with chairs, and a separate area for lounging, too. There was even a big room for office meetings.
Granted, most people look at the food offerings first, I tend to notice them after looking for seats. This lounge actually had good food, which may have been the biggest surprise, given how bad the previous lounge reviews were. People really hated the food in those reviews. However, on the day I was here, they had green salad with way more in it than lettuce and tomatoes, a hot risotto dish, a penne pasta dish, and an interesting assortment of Italian style sandwiches, both vegetarian and with meats. They also put out a few trays of both sweet and plain croissants, as well as other rolls and bread.
There’s a full bar and the bartender, who was also the barista, made a mean cappuccino. The bartender was very funny and friendly. I also liked that he came around and helped the lounge staff clean the tables and see if you wanted anything else to eat and drink. All the staff was helpful and pleasant. Another lounge perk was that there was a shower! I can only vouch for the women’s room shower, but I’d assume the men had one too. In a lounge like this, to have a shower really surprised me.
The lounge itself was plenty big and the furniture was spread out in a way that didn’t make you feel like you were crowded or had no privacy to talk. As much as I like the American Express Centurion lounges, I always feel I can hear everyone else’s conversations because of the way they crowd everyone in. Not so in this Priority Pass lounge. So I don’t know if this lounge has been renovated or what, but I was totally shocked and VERY pleasantly surprised to find this to be such a great lounge. I didn’t feel like anything was missing, and that’s unusual in most lounges.
Within the first few minutes of being there, I thought that it was actually a blessing in disguise that the Alitalia lounge hadn’t worked out. I not only had a great experience here, but it gave me something to write about and recommend to anyone passing through FCO!
Have you been to this lounge lately? Are there other Priority Pass lounges that are as good as this one? Which lounge surprised you in a good way? Let me know!